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CPAP stands for "continuous positive airway pressure." CPAP is a treatment that delivers slightly pressurized air during the breathing cycle.
This keeps the windpipe open during sleep and prevents episodes of blocked breathing in persons with obstructive sleep apnea and other breathing problems.
It is sometimes called nasal continuous positive airflow pressure (nCPAP).
Continuous positive airway pressure; CPAP; Bilevel positive airway pressure; BiPAP; Autotitrating positive airway pressure; APAP; nCPAP
WHO SHOULD USE CPAP
Continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) is the best treatment for most people with obstructive sleep apnea. It is safe and effective in patients of all ages, including children. If you only have mild sleep apnea and do not feel very sleepy during the day, you may not need to use it.
After using CPAP regularly, many patients report the following:
A similar machine, called BiPAP (bilevel positive airway pressure) is used as an alternative to CPAP. With this machine, the pressure changes while a person breathes in and out.
These devices are useful for children and adults with collapsible airways, small lung volumes, or muscle weakness that makes it difficult to breathe, such as muscular dystrophy.
CPAP or BiPAP may also be used by people who have:
HOW CPAP WORKS
CPAP works in the following way:
CPAP will be started while you are in the sleep center for the night. Sometimes, it can be started on the same night you have your sleep study.
The doctor, nurse, or therapist will help choose the mask that fits you best. They will also help adjust the settings on the machine while you are asleep. The settings on the CPAP machine depend on the severity of your sleep apnea.
If you are using the CPAP machine but your sleep apnea symptoms do not improve, the settings on the machine may need to be changed. Some patients can be taught to adjust the CPAP at home. Otherwise, you will need to make trips to the sleep center.
CPAP works by steadily increasing pressure in your airway. Newer devices, called autotitrating positive airway pressure (APAP), can respond to changes in pressure in your airway as they occur. This may be more comfortable, and it also can help you avoid overnight stays and other trips to the hospital.
GETTING USED TO THE DEVICE
It can take time to become used to a CPAP device. The first few nights of CPAP therapy are often the hardest. Some patients may sleep less or not sleep well at the start of treatment.
Patients who are having problems may tend not to use CPAP for the whole night, or even stop using the device. However, it is important to use the machine for the entire night or for as long as possible.
Common complaints include:
Many of these problems can be helped or prevented by the following methods:
Your doctor or therapist can lower the pressure on the CPAP machine and then increase it again at a slow pace. Some new machines can automatically adjust to the pressure that is needed.
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Epstein LJ, Kristo D, Strollo PJ Jr., et al.; Obstructive Sleep Apnea Task Force of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Clinical guideline for the evaluation, management, and long-term care of obstructive sleep apnea in adults. J Clin Sleep Med. 2009;5:263-276.
Reviewed by:Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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